Christian Yelich's troublesome back is not a recent development, according to one of the men who managed him in the Minor Leagues.
But Andy Haines, who now works with Yelich as the Brewers’ hitting coach, has not seen a bout linger in this manner.
“I don't remember if it was every year or not, but he did [have similar trouble],” said Haines, who managed Yelich parts of every season from Class A Greensboro in 2010-11 to Class A Advanced Jupiter in 2012-13 to Triple-A New Orleans in 2014 before Yelich broke into the Major Leagues.
“I remember we played those 10:30 a.m. kids games in the Minor Leagues that I detested as much as you could detest anything in the world,” Haines added. “He did it in one of those games in the outfield. I said, ‘Never again am I playing this guy in a 10:30 game.’ I told the Minor League people if we keep playing these 10:30 games, Yelich is never playing again.
“So, it has followed him. And I know Christian is just hungry for answers. It's pretty difficult for him just to sit and watch, I know that. He'll get some answers here and if anybody can turn it around and get it going in the right direction, you know he'll do it because he's going to be relentless in how he is. But yeah, it goes back. I think it was his second or third year. It wasn't significant, it was more like he had in the past here, probably a 10-day or two-week thing.”
Aside from a one-day escape on Monday against the Phillies, Yelich has been sidelined since he departed an April 11 game at St. Louis with a stiff lower back. An MRI scan later that month revealed no new structural damage, so Yelich continued to rehab and then attempted to come off the injured list this week, only to land back on the IL the next day.
As of Wednesday, the Brewers were still trying to determine where to send Yelich next for additional testing. Including the remainder of this season, he’s under contract with the club for eight more years.
Since no one on the team knows Yelich better, Haines is aware how difficult this period has been.
“Probably one of the biggest things I love about him is he's not really here for any of the fluff in the big leagues. He's here to compete and win,” Haines said. “He's always been that way since I've known him. That's what I loved about him. This guy, it's pretty simple, man. Like, he's here to compete and win. That's what he loves. So, you take it away from someone, it's kind of like who they are, you can see it in their face. It's going to hurt him.
“But you know, I think him studying and watching, and being there for the guys, if you can to add any more fuel to the fire he already has, for me that's the way to look at it. He has something taken away, it's just going to hopefully burn the fire even more when he comes back and is healthy.”
• Left-hander Brent Suter will make a spot start on Friday on a bullpen day as the Brewers open a three-game series against the Marlins in Miami. It’s the spot in the rotation vacated by Corbin Burnes, who is on the injured list. Suter made four such starts during the 2020 regular season and pitched well, covering three innings each time and holding the opponent scoreless three times. But he struggled to find the strike zone in another emergency start against the Dodgers in the National League Wild Card Series. The club should know this weekend whether Burnes will be able to take his next turn in the rotation.
• The Brewers have been bitten by the injury bug so far this season, and it’s apparently not limited to the big leagues. Top prospect Garrett Mitchell tweaked one of his legs while tallying two more hits in his second professional game on Wednesday night for Class A Advanced Wisconsin and left the game as a precaution. Mitchell was not in the starting lineup on Thursday.
• Reliever Drew Rasmussen credited a simpler approach to his better recent results. He has upped his fastball usage in recent outings, along with his sider.
“I think the first week, two weeks, I was making things too complicated,” Rasmussen said. “It was getting back to being myself, being aggressive, mixing in the fastball and slider, and the changeup when necessary. I think winning 0-0 counts, I’ve gotten a little bit better there. Not great, it’s still a work in progress. But it’s definitely gotten better. Then, even counts, staying ahead and staying on the attack, I think has really helped me.”